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All Together for the Camera: A History of the Supreme Court’s Group Photograph

Few visual cues say “Supreme Court” better than its group photograph, the first of which was taken in 1867. Although this 150-year old custom occurred infrequently in the beginning, it has since become one of the Court’s most popular and enduring traditions. For the first 75 years the Justices would gather at studios of various photographers around Washington, D.C. and during this time they gradually settled on ground rules such as a seating arrangement based on seniority, and posing only once after a change in membership. Since 1941, the group photograph has been taken in the Supreme Court Building.

This exhibit features the work of 20 different photographers and studios, and traces the development of the group photograph from the first in 1867 to the most recent, taken in November 2018.

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The Salmon P. Chase Court by Alexander Gardner, March 1867
The Salmon P. Chase Court by Alexander Gardner, February 1867
The first group photograph taken of the Justices dressed in the judicial robes also included Clerk of the Court D.W. Middleton (standing at left).
Collection of the Supreme Court of the United States


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